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Earth Day 2014: Sustainability Team at OC Jail

Deputy Jim Hamill and Deputy Bill Wagner recently received Medals of Merit for their success as the Sustainability Team at OC's largest jail. Below is the nomination that outlines their efforts, and the immense savings their programs have brought to the county, conserving waste and financial resources.


In reaction to a new California state law requiring businesses and public entities to divert the majority of their solid waste through source reduction, recycling, or composting, Theo Lacy Facility Commander, then-Captain Toni Bland, selected Deputy Bernard ‘Jim’ Hamill and Deputy Bill Wagner to become the initial members of the Theo Lacy Sustainability Team. The deputies’ primary task was to keep the jail in compliance with the requirements of the newly enacted regulations but; through innovative ideas, creative thinking and hard work; they exceeded those requirements and set new standards for the efficient disposal of waste products at the facility. In addition to complying with the new law, the deputies also sought to cut costs. They achieved this goal with remarkable results.

Prior to the existence of the Sustainability Team, the Lacy Facility generated over 1,400 TONS of waste per year, requiring a 40-cubic-yard compactor for collection and storage. A contracted waste hauler transported the refuse to local landfills four times per week at an annual cost of $67,000. Deputies Hamill and Wagner came up with several methods to reduce the amount of waste. They began collecting cardboard first, eliminating an estimating 80 tons of waste per year. Next, they collected all of the metal food cans that the kitchen threw away, roughly 86,000 cans per year and removed them from the trash disposal process. The next step was diverting the milk cartons consumed by the inmates (approximately 2.2 million cartons every year) to a recycling company.

The deputies also determined several more types of trash generated by inmate consumption of food or commissary products could be effectively recycled and created an inmate worker program to collect and sort the trash. This resulted in the annual removal of 1.3 million brown paper bags, one million candy wrappers and chip bags, 200,000 Styrofoam trays, and 48,000 newspapers from the trash disposal process. Additionally, the program reduced waste by eliminating worn and torn clothing items from the trash heap. During one three-day period, inmate workers removed 160 socks, 51 towels, 40 sheets, 32 boxers, 28 t-shirts, 6 smocks and 7 pairs of pants from the trash. Old clothing and bedding items are now recycled and sent to a company that converts the items into machine shop rags.

With these steps and by working with kitchen staff to reduce food waste, Deputies Hamill and Wagner eliminated the need for the trash compactor. They replaced the compactor with a few trash bins and reduced the cost of trash collection by $50,000 annually. As a bonus, the sustainability program also generates income. By recycling cardboard, metal cans, paper products and clothing items, the facility made nearly $19,000. Recycling has also helped forge stronger community ties. The deputies participated in a fundraiser with the Carden Academy, a Huntington Beach school that receives two cents for every candy wrapper it recycles. The Orange County Register wrote an article on the program as did the California Sheriff Magazine. Local and national organizations have toured the facility to observe the recycling program.

The outstanding efforts of Deputy Jim Hamill and Deputy Bill Wagner have helped the environment, brought recognition to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, and demonstrated our continued support for the citizens of Orange County to build a better future together.